A calamitous breakup and a band reconciliation led Live to where they are today

A calamitous breakup and a band reconciliation led Live to where they are today

Words by Jakeb Smith

Even before the rise of the internet, naming your band ‘Live’ took a certain amount of faith in your ability to capture people’s attention.

And yet, almost 30 years on, run “live band” through your search engine of choice and the Pennsylvanian alt-rock quartet are the first to appear. 

Ed Kowalczyk can’t believe it. 

“That’s saying something!” The singer exclaims down the line. “We must have friends at Google or something that are helping that out, because otherwise wouldn’t every single live band in the world – all the live performances – come up? That’s pretty cool.”

Not a bad result for a name the band “pulled out of a hat” back in 1991. Kowalczyk remembers one of their managers at the time warning the name would only work if the band “got really famous”. It might have been an innocuous and practical observation in any other band meeting, but the worldly vocalist took it as a challenge. 

“There’s some kind of weird reverse psychology there … but it worked, I’m cool with it.”

Just three years later the band would release their sophomore album, Throwing Copper, and become one of the biggest names in rock music. Suddenly, there was no confusion over which ‘live band’ people were referring to. Live, like The Who and The Band before them, had transcended the ambiguity of their name.

However, having such a successful record can be both the boon and bane of a musical outfit. Live could release their magnum opus this year and it would probably still be compared unfavourably to Throwing Copper. Songs like ‘Lightning Crashes’ have been reliably sending shivers up fans’ spines for 25 years now.

“There’s so much emotion in the songs that people have become so related to them because of that, because they’ve been able to make it their own and apply it to their lives in a way that honestly surprises me a lot of the time. So I think that that’s really done the record justice in the sense that it’s still so interesting to people and still matters so much to them all these years later.”

With so many people so heavily invested in their music, it’s great that Live are still able to tour as their original unit. Kowalczyk famously split from the band in 2009 and was subsequently sued by the remaining three members. During the intervening years before the eventual reformation in 2016, the singer-songwriter launched a solo career, picking up an acoustic guitar and performing in considerably smaller venues than he was used to playing. 

“I have a lot of guitar chops and strength with the crowd that I developed doing those acoustic shows. The intimacy I was able to create with people in those small venues, I had never done before, because the band got so successful so quickly I never played acoustically.”

Live are now just happy the four friends from high school who dreamed of being the biggest live band in the world are back together and playing music. 

“We would have never guessed that we’d have a calamitous break up like we did and that we would get back together and be having more fun than ever because of the break up. We’re still happy and even shocked that we’re still together. So there’s extra gratitude and joy on stage and it’s really palpable to the fans. I’m convinced we wouldn’t be there, in that way, without having gone through what we did.”

It was, as Kowalczyk remarks, “A blessing in a really good disguise”.

And with all the acrimony out of the way, fans can now look forward to a lot more Live in the future. 

“We don’t know how to do anything but be in a band together. Being Live is something that I don’t imagine any of us will ever stop doing. It’s just too much fun.”

Live perform at Under the Southern Stars when it goes down at Hastings Foreshore Reserve on the Mornington Peninsula on Saturday April 11. Grab your tickets via underthesouthernstars.com.au.